Israel at 58: A Failing Experiment

14 May 2006

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U.S. Letter of Recognition of the State of Israel, with the word “Jewish state” omitted by President Truman. (Harry S. Truman Library)


One of Israel’s founding Ministers of Education and Culture, Professor Ben-Zion Dinur (1954), said it most sharply; “In our country there is room only for the Jews. We shall say to the Arabs: Get out! If they don’t agree, if they resist, we shall drive them out by force” (History of the Haganah). With this theme as the explicit backdrop of a newly established State, it is no wonder that Israel, 58 years later, has had little chance of being a normal member of the state of nations.

Individual Israeli achievements in fields like science and technology are impressive. However, for all modern intent and purpose, the State of Israel, as a state building model, is a failing experience — ideologically, religiously, politically, socially and, if US favorite nation status were removed, possibly economically as well. Without immediate and decisive intervention from the world community to stop the ongoing Israeli aggression on Palestinians, Israel’s intransigence and US-equipped regional hegemony will not only fuel another generation of Palestinians willing to sacrifice their lives to achieve their freedom and independence, but will also further jeopardize Israel’s basic premise that explicit religious discrimination, namely a Jewish-only state, is an accepted basis for statehood in modern times.

In spite of the above comments by Israel’s First Minister of Education (and reinforced by many other Israeli leaders), Israel was founded on the infamous fallacy that it was built on a “land with no people, for a people with no land”. Israel has utterly failed to persuade the world, and more recently more of its own people, that this was a valid premise for statehood. Also, given the fact that historic Palestine was inhabited prior to Israel being created, Israel has been unable to ignore that this very same fallacy is a raw form of outright racism.

Israel expelled more than one half of the indigenous Palestinian population in 1948. Ever since, Israel has assumed a policy of civil discrimination, political imprisonment, torture, deportations, beatings, collective punishment, political assassinations, settlement building, economic dominance; the list is endless and intensified after the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967. For being an ‘empty’ land, the complications that Palestinians posed to the implantation of a Western state in the midst of the Middle East were overwhelming.

Since its inception, Israel has arrogantly refused to address the most crucial prerequisite of its establishment as a conventional State — accepting the Palestinians — those people that just happened to be living in that ‘empty’ land of Israel. The Palestinians, those that were forcefully expelled from their homes in 1948, 1967, and more recently in 2001, have been living in squalid refugee camps throughout the region. The Palestinians, those that did not flee Israel-proper in 1948 are today fourth class Israeli citizens. The Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem that have lived under Israeli military occupation for 40 years, to the day, will continue to haunt the international community until justice is served and the Israeli occupation is ended, in its entirety.

After nearly six decades of conflict, and after a decade of Palestinian political recognition of Israel on part of their lands, the Israeli people choose to sustain the conflict and elected another of its most notorious war criminals, Ariel Sharon. Sharon was charged, as captain of the vanguard, to lead Israel into its sixth decade of conflict. However, Sharon’s illness and incapacitation cut his personal involvement short, but his master plans are alive and well under the leadership of the recently elected Israel Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.

Today, Israel seems determined more than ever to forcefully prove the original premise of its statehood – an Israel with moveable, unilaterally-defined borders and a Jewish-only population. Eleven Israeli Prime Ministers before Olmert, five of them after the signing of the Oslo agreements, failed. Prime Minister Olmert will fail as well. If Israel can not produce a leader to move the country from a pariah state to a member state of the Middle East, no one will be to blame for the consequences, no matter how severe, but the Israeli people themselves.

This should not come as a surprise for Israelis who have studied their own history. Israel’s founding Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, understood it well when he said, “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that? (David Ben-Gurion quoted in “The Jewish Paradox” by Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Jewish Congress.)

Similarly, it should be no surprise that past Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, rushed to sign the now failed Oslo Peace Accords after calculating the historic ramifications of the political earthquake that took place when the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, politically recognized the State of Israel. Rabin paid for that signature with his life, which was taken by one of his own citizens, a fanatic Jewish student. This was as close as Israel has ever been in closing the last chapter of its establishment. It was totally in Israel’s – the occupying power’s – hands then, as it is today, to end the occupation of the Palestinians and start the bitter process of reconciliation.

Every step of the way, as Israel further entrenched its illegal occupation of the Palestinians, it has been continuously rewarded by the United States of America. Israel has been propped up, financially and politically, by every single US administration at the expense of internationally unconscious US taxpayers, fully obedient to the direction of the far-reaching Israeli lobby and narrow commercial interests. What started as a US strategic ally in one of the most sensitive spots in the world during a Cold War that marred common sense, has rapidly digressed into a liability in an age of globalization that the United States alone is spearheading.

While the Bush Administration continues to ignorantly turn a blind eye to Israel’s blatant violations of international law and human rights, the United States runs the fear that the globalized world will start to question the moral authority inherent in the US’s unfettered support of an Israel that publicly pursues a policy that only has the intransigence to move an entire region into long-term political and economic turmoil. Countries that have bought into the New World Order of Globalization should start to internalize the consequences to themselves, if the US, in a world it single-handily runs, chooses to defend the wrong side of history at its will.

Today, on the 58th remembrance of the Palestinian Nakba (translated Catastrophe) Israel must choose between continuing an illegal occupation and preserving the self-defined, albeit discriminatory, nature of the State of Israel. To think that both can peacefully co-exist, or possibly even singly exist, is utter ignorance of history and human development. Also, for Israel to believe that the US will continue to jeopardize its New World Order of Globalization for the sake of fulfilling an Israeli illusion of Palestinian submission is a miscalculation to the nth degree.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian city of El-Bireh, the sister city of Ramallah. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994).

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